Savanna (also called “Savannah”) goats originated in South Africa in the 1950s, by breeding Boer goats with local landrace goats. In 1993, the Savanna Goat Society was created in South Africa, to recognize and perpetuate the breed, and within a year or two they were being imported to the United States.
Due to extensive crossbreeding, purebred Savanna goats are rare outside of South Africa, and conservationists recommend keeping conservation herds to preserve their status and explore desirable traits in the breed.
Savanna Goat Uses
Savanna goats were developed to be a low-input meat goat, able to adapt to rough climates and poor forage. They were also specifically developed for their rare white hair and dark skin. White goats are a particularly popular for meat in large parts of Africa, but most white goats have skin that is extremely sensitive to the sun and requires protection. The Savanna's dark skin protects it from the sun and makes it easier to care for than other goats with white hair.
As meat goats, they are favored for having tender, flavorful meat and a balanced carcass with little fat.
Savanna Goat Characteristics
The high litter weaning weight, easy breeding, and relatively low input of Savannas is the main reason for their economic value and popularity in the US.
Meat, with secondary attributes of high quality skin and good quality cashmere, although fiber is in small quantities.
White, with black horns. They have strong jaws, long-lasting teeth, and high worm and parasite resistance. Adaptable to all climates and weather conditions.
Does average 125-200 pounds, while bucks weigh 200-250 pounds or more. Kids average 55-66 pounds at 100 days.
Early to medium.
Agreeable and social.
Year-round, high twin rate.
Excellent, kidding on their own, and kids stand and nurse quickly.
Excellent, kidding on their own, and kids stand and nurse quickly.
Raising Savanna Goats
Savanna goats were bred to be an independent, low-input breed. They are excellent foragers, and are able to grow rapidly with little supplemental food or nutrition. They are resistant to parasites, and tolerate heat and cold well. Females give birth in the open and are excellent mothers. Despite this independence and little need for human intervention, Savanna goats have a mellow temperament and are easier to handle than many other meat goat breeds.
Savanna goats can be raised and live like other small-farm meat goats, with about 250 feet of pasture space per goat for exercise and social needs. In such a setting, high quality food and mineral supplements must be provided for the goats, and breeding is typically controlled.
For meat goats relying on provided food rather than pasture, the nutritional composition of their feed is incredibly important. They must have the right quantity of food and quality of nutrients in order to gain weight.
Here are the basic nutritional requirements for meat goats:
Weanling>30 pounds, est. weight gain of .44 lb./day
Yearling>60 pounds, est. weight gain of .44 lb./day
Doe, 110 lb., early pregnancy
Doe, 110 lb., late pregnancy
Doe, 110 lb., lactating (average/non-dairy production)
Buck, 160-240 lb.
Dry matter, in pounds
Total Digestible Nutrients
Read the label on your feed, and plan your goats' nutrition accordingly.
Goats require trace amounts of copper, which sheep cannot tolerate. This means that you can give goats food and supplements formulated for sheep (as long as it meets their nutritional requirements), but not the other way around. You can also give goats food and supplements designed for horses, but not for cattle. A goat's digestive system is shorter than a cow's, and meat goats require nearly twice the nutrition by body weight than cows do.
As herd animals with a social order, large and dominant goats will tend to eat first and aggressively. Weanlings, yearlings, and does in late pregnancy should be grouped together and fed separately, since they have higher nutritional needs than bucks, wethers, and dry does.
Meat goats kept largely on commercial feed will also need supplements. Goats can be given mineral supplements freely, and goats raised on commercial feed will likely require salt, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, selenium, and zinc.
Many mineral supplements include salt, to make them attractive to goats, and goats should not be given salt licks. Vitamin A is likely to be insufficient in commercial feed, and goats that are raised indoors or confined to a barn for long periods of time are also likely to be low on vitamin D.
Savanna goats were bred to be self-sufficient and forage. They are healthier and happier, and have lower feed costs, if they are given large amounts of weedy, brushy pasture. They are an excellent breed if you need to clear undergrowth and weeds, or prepare pasture for sheep, cows, and other grazing animals.
Generally speaking, low-quality forage contains 40-55% of a goat's required Total Digestible Nutrients, while high-quality forage contains up to 75% of a daily TDN. High quality, vegetative pasture also contains 12-24% of a goat's daily protein requirements, and all the calcium that goats require. Grazing goats will still require a mineral supplement, as zinc and phosphorous levels may be low.
If you live in an area with plentiful selenium levels in the soil, foraging goats will not require a supplement. The University of Georgia has created an excellent map that will help you determine selenium levels in your area.
Because Savannas are specifically a low-input breed, they can thrive in climates with wide temperature and rainfall variations, and will breed year-round when food supply is adequate. Savanna kids are noteworthy for getting up and nursing more quickly than other breeds.
Savanna goats are resistant to tick-borne diseases, and tolerant of common worms and parasites. They require little intervention once they have adapted to the local environment.
Savanna Goat Shelter
Savanna goats are hardy and adaptable, and, once they are acclimated, they prefer to spend nights out in their pasture. However, they do require a shelter in rough weather. In mild climates, savanna goats can be perfectly happy in a sturdy, three-sided shelter with a packed earth floor and clean bedding.
Savanna Goat Fencing
Savanna goats are a large, active, robust breed. They need a sturdy fence, both to contain the goats and to exclude predators. Their fence should be at least 6 feet tall, with posts buried at least 2 feet or cement footing, and posts placed at 8 foot (or closer) intervals. If landscape features make it likely that goats will climb or jump the fence, an electric wire at the top and bottom will help to better contain these tough goats.
Breeding Savanna Goat
While Savanna goats are a meat goat, extensive crossbreeding in North America has made purebreds relatively scarce. This means that there may be more value in breeding Savanna goats than in growing them for meat.
Purebred Savanna goats may produce offspring that are not pure white, and thus don't conform to the breed standard. However, such goats can still be registered as American Royal, a purebred Savanna in which color is deemed acceptable, as long as it conforms to all other Savanna standards.
While does can be bred as early as 6 months, they will breed more successfully if they have reached at least 75-80% of their mature size and body weight, so that early breeding will not affect their mature size.
Goats should be grouped together (bucks with bucks; does with does and wethers) several weeks before breeding, if they have been separated. Goats are social animals, and will need to establish a pecking order. It is best if this is done before well breeding, so that stress and fighting do not affect their breeding performance.
Inspect your goats for health. Any necessary vaccinations or deworming should be done before the breeding season. If breeding does are thin, they may need to be flushed after deworming. Flushing simply means giving breeding does additional food for 2-3 weeks prior to breeding them.
Giving them ample nutrition increases ovulations and increases the likelihood of multiple births, but studies show that this practice is only effective in does that are in poor body condition. Goats will also need to have their legs, feet, and hooves inspected and trimmed so that their feet are in excellent health.
Bucks cover a lot of ground during breeding, and need to have healthy feet in order to perform. And if either bucks or does are limping and lame, they may refuse breeding.
Keeping your own purebred Savanna goat is the single best way to control the breeding of your goats and the quality of your kids. However, keeping a buck can be a challenge on a smaller farm; they need to be enclosed separately from does, kids, and wethers outside of breeding season. Furthermore, their enclosure needs to be much sturdier, and they need to be kept well away from does, so that they don't try to climb, jump, or break their fence.
Bucks and does should be in a mixed herd for approximately 40-45 days. A typical ratio is one buck for every 20-30 does. Does will enter estrus 2-3 days after the introduction of the buck, depending on her body condition, his sexual aggressiveness, and the degree of exposure. The first ovulation is usually low fertility, but with prolonged contact, does will enter a high fertility estrus approximately 5 days after the first.
Leaving the bucks and does together for over 40 days ensures that does have two fertile estrus cycles, and increases the likelihood that they will be bred.
Goats gestate for 145-155 days. Because Savanna goats can be bred year-round, you can either stagger your breeding to produce kids year round, or produce goats for specific seasons and markets.
Savanna Goats Price
Purebred Savanna goats are rare in the United States, and typically cost $750-$2,000, depending on the sex and the animal. Savanna/Boer crosses are much more common, and cost about half as much.
Choosing a Savanna Goat
It's always important to choose the best goats for your stock, but it's particularly important with a breed as rare and expensive as the Savanna goat.
Whenever possible, visit the breeder in person. A good breeder will welcome such a visit, since they care about the welfare of their goats, and want to check you out as well. On the farm, ask if you can have a look around. You should look at the goats' pasture, shelter, and overall living environment, which should be relatively clean, well-kept, and healthy.
All their goats (and any other livestock, for that matter) should have good coats and good body weight, with no visibly ill or unhealthy animals. Get a good look at your goat's parents, if possible. If a breeder won't let you visit or look around, it's cause to be suspicious.
If you can't visit the farm in person, ask the breeder if they can give you contact information for other people who have purchased Savannas from them. The Savanna community is small, and people are usually eager to share their experiences, so it should not be a problem to contact other people who have bought goats from this particular breeder and ask about their goats' health, habits, and disposition.
You can order whole herds of Savanna goats online from third party sellers like Amazon and Alibaba, but it's a bad idea to take that risk and buy expensive goats from around the world sight unseen.
No matter where your Savanna comes from, here are the things to know and check before you buy:
If you are buying a young buck, was his father prolific, with a track record of reliably covering lots of does every season? If you are buying a young doe, how good a kidder was her mother?
Can the breeder provide a record or list of vaccinations, worming medications, supplements, etc.? Make sure that not just your individual goat, but their parents and the whole herd are in good health.
Get down and look at/touch your prospective goat all over. All meat goats should have a sturdy build with good muscle development and strong legs. Check their eyes, teeth, and hooves for any visible problems. Savannas should have white fur with completely black skin, horns, and hooves, and may have some black pigment on the ears. In does, udders should be well-developed and symmetrical.
Savanna Goats Breeders
The official Savanna registry is kept by Pedigree International, which keeps a list of active breeders here: Active Savanna Breeders